CLEVELAND — The last time Rays RHP Chris Archer was at Progressive Field, it was in July 2006, and he was a 17-year-old Indians fifth-round pick signing his first professional contract.
Archer watched the Indians take batting practice, and he and his father, Ron, took in the game from the front row.
Archer, 24, will have an even better view today. He was called up to make his season debut for the Rays in a place where it all started for him professionally.
"I always envisioned myself playing here," Archer said. "And to come back and actually play on the other side is pretty cool, just to maybe show them what they're missing out on."
Archer showed his potential last year in two impressive stints with the Rays, but he had to wait his turn as a shin bruise briefly set him back. Now he is the fourth member of the Triple-A Durham rotation to be called up, after RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Alex Torres and RHP Alex Colome.
"I think it's awesome," Archer said. "Because (manager Joe Maddon and executive vice president Andrew Friedman) said that we're going to need to use 7-8 guys, and to already use eight, and effectively, it's amazing."
Archer said he used the time in Durham, where he went 5-3 with a 3.96 ERA in 10 starts, to improve on the things the Rays wanted him to work on, specifically fastball command, utilizing his changeup and controlling the running game. He had a few setbacks because he was hit in the right leg by comebackers in back-to-back games, one off his shin and the other off his hip flexor. But he said he's healthy and excited to finally get his turn.
"It's a sense of relief, because I'm here," Archer said. "I feel like I'm at home; the guys fully embraced me whenever I came in today. And I feel like I've also continued to get better as well, so I feel even more comfortable than I did in March."
Maddon said Archer is physically and mentally ready for the big leagues, but the Rays want him to work on how he utilizes his weapons.
"He gets it, he knows that his time will come and he knows he's going to be here for a long time," Maddon said. "And he also knows he's got to do things the right way. He's very accountable. So I really believe he's going to pitch pretty well right now."
ROSTER SHUFFLE: As impressive as RHP Alex Colome was in his big-league debut Thursday, earning the win against Miami, he was optioned to Durham on Friday. The Rays brought up LHP Jeff Beliveau to provide depth to the bullpen.
Maddon said RHPs Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney, as well as LHP Jake McGee were not available Friday, partly thanks to pitching so often during the five-game winning streak.
"The bullpen guys are a little bit weary right now," Maddon said.
Beliveau was called up for one day May 19 in Baltimore but did not pitch, and he will likely get sent down after Friday's game to make room for Archer. But Beliveau has intrigued Maddon since his acquisition from the Rangers April 16.
"He sounds pretty interesting to me," Maddon said. "A left-handed pitcher that gets out lefties and righties, a strike-thrower, and good stuff, good makeup guy."
CATCHING ON: With Triple-A Durham C Chris Gimenez placed on the disabled list with a left hand sprain, the organizational depth at the position is suddenly thin. "Yeah, right, no (kidding)," Maddon quipped. The Bulls catchers are C Craig Albernaz and C Juan Apodaca, acquired from the Rangers in April, neither with big-league experience.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.